(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed on a sharply higher note, up more than 1 percent, buoyed by a set of better-than-expected data on pending home sales and durable goods orders.
The S&P 500 Index rose 1.27 percent to end at 1,515.99. The Dow Jones gained 1.26 percent to finish at 14,075.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 1.04 percent to close at 3,162.26.
On the domestic data front, pending home sales jumped 4.5 percent last month to the highest level since 2010 after a 1.9 percent decline in December, topping expectations of an increase of 1.5 percent.
Durable-goods orders for January fell 5.2 percent, sharper than economists expectations of an drop of 4.4 percent. New orders - excluding transportation - rose 1.9 percent, while expectations were for a 0.2 percent rise. Durable-goods orders measures the change in the total value of new orders for long lasting manufactured goods.
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The Federal Reserve has the tools necessary to tighten monetary policy when the time comes to do so, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke repeated testimony in his second day before a congressional committee.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: TGT, PCLN, DLTR, FSLR, JOY, VHC, CBB, ATRS, AH
In corporate news, Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) lost 1.45 percent after the discount chain posted lower quarterly profit as higher costs and expenses offset sales growth. The company, though, issued earnings guidance above market expectations.
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Priceline.com Inc. (NASDAQ: PCLN) gained 2.82 percent after the provider of online travel services reported an increase in quarterly earnings on a 33 percent growth in gross travel bookings as well as strong hotel bookings. Earnings exceeded market expectations.
Dollar Tree Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR) surged 10.49 percent after the operator of discount variety stores reported better-than-forecast fourth-quarter results, driven by comparable store sales growth and improvement in margins.
First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) stumbled 13.78 percent after the maker of solar modules forecast first-quarter revenue that trailed market expectations.
Joy Global Inc. (NYSE: JOY) jumped 5.82 percent after the provider of mining equipments posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings, despite a fall in bookings.
VirnetX Holding Corp. (NYSEAMEX: VHC) gained 4.77 percent after the provider of Internet security software said a U.S. district court upheld a $368 million jury verdict against Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL).
Cincinnati Bell Inc. (NYSE: CBB) tumbled 22.17 percent after the provider of voice communications services posted a surprise loss for the fourth quarter and guided revenue for the full year slightly short of market expectations.
Antares Pharma Inc. (NASDAQ: ATRS) gained 5.04 percent after the company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted its new drug application for OTREXUP.
Accretive Health Inc. (NYSE: AH) plunged 20.97 percent after the healthcare services provider said it will postpone the release of its fourth quarter and full-year results as it is evaluating the timing of revenue recognition for its revenue cycle management agreements.
European markets closed higher, with Germany's DAX up 1.04 percent to close at 7,675.83. France's CAC40 added 1.92 percent to finish at 3,691.49. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.88 percent to end at 6,325.88.
Among Asian markets, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.87 percent to end at $2,313.22. Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 1.27 percent to end at 11,253.97. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.25 percent to close at 22,577.01. India's Sensex closed at 19,152.41, up 0.72 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures rose 0.22 percent to $92.81 per barrel, while natural gas futures shed 0.98 percent to $3.42 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures fell 1.26 percent to $1,595.20 per ounce and silver futures lost 1.66 percent to $28.96 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro gained 0.58 percent against the U.S. dollar at 1.3137. The British pound rose 0.21 percent against the greenback to 1.5157, and the dollar advanced 0.24 percent against the Japanese yen at 92.2000.